CIMComp Hub Storytelling Workshop Review

by Umeir Khan

Creating a compelling and impactful story can be challenging. Fortunately, there are tools at hand to engage our audiences and craft a message that is pitch-perfect.

Following on from the success of prior workshops coordinated by the CIMComp Researcher’s Network, early April saw a fantastic turnout from current PhDs/EngD students for the “Storytelling for Engagement” activity, hosted at the University of Nottingham’s campus, and delivered by material scientist / professional storyteller – Dr Anna Ploszajski.

Many items of consideration were brought up: the type of audience you are presenting to, understanding their motivations and playing with the narrative hooks that drive the dramatic tension in a story. Unsurprisingly, a lot of parallels can be found in our favourite films, the ‘what if?’ that starts the journey for a protagonist to the ‘what if’ that sparks our own research.

Overall, it was a splendid event which helped demystify the route to effective research communication and impact. Highly recommended!

CerTest Independent Advisory Board and Industrial Steering Group Meeting, 17 April 2024 in Southampton

On April 17th 2024, the CerTest team met with the Independent Advisory Board (IAB) and the Industrial Steering Group (ISG) for a fantastic day of presenting the project’s research goals and achievements along with in-depth discussions about CerTest methodologies and next steps, including what comes after CerTest . Presentations and posters were made by CerTest researchers and PhD students covering the work going into each of the project’s four research challenges, as well as the interactions and joint activities.

The CerTest team presented a complete vision for the project, and for the first time a holistic depiction of what the CerTest methodology for performance validation and ultimately certification will encompass, and how it is different from the current building block approach. Essentially, a road map towards certification by analysis or digital certification was outlined. The presentations were very well received by the representatives from the IAB and ISG including cross sector industry stakeholder and the funder EPSRC. The day was topped off with an evening dinner reception that concluded a very enjoyable day for all.

A seated audience looking at a presentation screen A seated audience looking at a presentation screen

Industrial Doctorate Centre in Composites Manufacture: Showcase 2023

The Industrial Doctorate Centre welcomed over 40 guests to the annual Showcase event, on the 19th September 2023, held at the Watershed in Bristol. The event was followed by a gala dinner at Bristol Harbour Hotel.

The Industrial Doctorate Centre in Composites Manufacture has now reached its 10th year, and over this time, 31 students have graduated with an EngD in Composites Manufacture. The day before the event we welcomed five new students to the IDC, bringing the total number of students currently enrolled to 20. The new students were excited to attend the Showcase along with existing IDC students, alumni, academic and industrial supervisors, and joined by a group specially invited  VIP guests, with strong connections to the UK composites sector. It was a great opportunity for students to present their research work to a wider audience and network within the industry.

The day consisted of 3 oral presentations sessions and a quick-fire poster session all chaired by the IDC alumni. The presentations from our students ranged from topics in advanced manufacturing techniques, new approaches to testing wind turbine blades, process simulation and effect of cryogenic exposure on composites. A focus of the showcase was sustainability, this was brought in to context in a fantastic keynote speech from Dr Ffion Rodes. One of the ambitions for the IDC is for our students to create their own spinouts and companies. Dr Tomasz Garstka a PhD alumni from Bristol Composites Institute has done just that creating his company LMAT. Tomasz gave an excellent keynote presentation  on how he turned his academic research into a commercial tool for composite tooling.


The Showcase ended with a very lively panel discussion, chaired by Professor Mike Hinton of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The panel comprised  Dr Anna Scott Magma Global; Dr Petar Zivkovic Airbus; Dr Peter Giddings NCC; Dr Faye Smith, Avalon Consultancy; Professor Paul Hogg, Royal Holloway University of London; Janet Mitchell, MC2Consultants.

The panel were asked to discuss how can industrially-based doctoral research help unlock the potential of composites in achieving a Net Zero? The topics discussed included: Understanding better how digital technologies can help accelerate our learning; start thinking of composites as an enabler to protect our way of life by integrating sustainability at the design stage, creating a template for LCA that can be used in all projects; extended in-service life of composites and life extension programmes; smarter testing to reduce waste and move to virtual tests for certification; take steps to eliminate trial and error approaches in manufacturing; move away from the driven by rate approach.

The event was a great success with engaging discussions throughout the day carrying on into the evening at the reception and the gala dinner.

Professor Janice Barton, Director of the IDC was delighted with the day and said “It was fantastic to see our students present their work with confidence and realising they are making a significant difference to their sponsoring companies and to wider society”.

2023 BCI & NCC Annual Conference

The Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) and National Composites Centre (NNC) recently hosted their joint annual conference at Wills Hall Conference Centre in Bristol. If you missed out this year, then a recording of the BCI & NCC introductions, Technical Presentations and the Keynote Lecture are available to view on the BCI Youtube Channel.

Matt Scott from National Composites Centre presenting in front of a screen

The focus of the event was on future applications of composite materials, through industry focussed innovation. We were at capacity with nearly 200 attendees, for an array of technical presentations and thought-provoking discussions. There were presentations from BCI and NCC on Sustainable and Natural Materials, CMC’s for High Temperature Applications and Future Structures – how composites can be redesigned to unlock function and performance.

This was followed by an insightful keynote lecture from Alison Green at Vertical Aerospace titled “How composites will help disrupt the future of air travel”.

A seated audience watching a presentation

We finished the day with a panel session which focused on 4 key areas:

  • Challenges for new sustainable materials
  • How to create a level playing field for LCA of materials?
  • UK competitiveness in new materials
  • Reduction of product development costs



The panel session was chaired by Mike Hinton of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, with an expert panel sharing their knowledge; Faye Smith (Avalon Consultancy Services), Jon Meegan (Solvay), Fabrizio Scarpa (BCI), Marcus Walls-Bruck (NCC), Lourens Blok (Lineat), Jonathan Fuller (NCC) and Alison Green (Vertical Aerospace).

A seated panel session facing an audience

Success for BCI at ICCM23

The Bristol Composites Institute recently attended the 2023 International Conference on Composites Materials (ICCM23) which took place from 31 July – 4 August in Belfast. As a principal partner of the event, alongside the National Composites Centre (NCC), the BCI had a significant role in the conference and across 5 days delivered over 50 research presentations, chaired workshops and hosted a variety of special sessions through our NextCOMP and CerTest projects.

Welcome slide in main auditorium of the ICC

The NextCOMP sessions saw 29 speakers in 3 packed days of talks on “Understanding and improving longitudinal compression strength” and CerTest hosted a successful workshop and panel session on “Modernising Routes to Compliance with Composite Regulations: A Journey towards Virtual Testing and Digital Twinning” in collaboration with the NCC and the University of Bath.

Group NextCOMP photo

Prof. Janice Barton also took part as a panellist for the “Women in Composites Leadership Forum” which looked at the challenges, choices and collaborations that were important in their careers and in developing their pathways to success. The panel were asked several questions from the audience that included attracting more females to engineering, the spectre of positive discrimination, and the possibility to apply learnings to support other groups in the community, such as ethnic minorities. The forum was well attended with diverse audience of about 80 people. There were some lively discussions with positive directions for future activities identified. A view of the stage for the Women in Composites forum

The conference, which welcomed researchers and industry professionals from around the world, provided a comprehensive platform for showcasing composites research, ranging from advanced materials and manufacturing techniques to structural integrity across a multitude of industries. The conference featured a vast line-up of keynote speakers and presenters (many of those coming from the BCI) who shared their expertise and insights on the latest breakthroughs in composites science and technology. In addition, ICCM23 also facilitated a range of networking opportunities with poster sessions, workshops, and informal discussions which encouraged ideas to be shared and new connections to be formed.

BCI research poster

This was also an opportunity for us in the BCI to promote our working partnership with the NCC and showcase the high level of research that comes out of having such strong academic and industry links. It was the first time we had shared an exhibitor space and we would like to thank everyone for their positive feedback and interest in  our joint collaborations. BCI and NCC exhibitor stand

Thank you to everyone who spoke to us and asked questions about our research, and of course to our brilliant team of researchers who did a tremendous job of presenting to such a large, international audience.

We look forward to the next ICCM event!

Group BCI photo

ICCM23 banners hanging outside the conference centre.

Crushing composites: NextCOMP and BCI Fun at Festival of Nature

On a mostly sunny Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th June an excited and enthusiastic team including several UG and Composites Cosem CDT students, numerous researchers, two Professors and a Project Manager delivered a hugely popular composites-focused interactive stand at the BNHC organised Festival of Nature “Wild Weekend”.

Two adults and a child looking at displays in a marquee tent

An incredibly busy Millennium Square, checkered with multiple marquees, became the hub of many fascinating nature-related discoveries. Large numbers of people attended the two-day event, from all walks of life to engage with the different activities.

The NextCOMP “Woodpeckers and Wind Turbines: How nature inspires novel materials” stand attracted a lot of attention, with visitors keen to uncover facts about and vote for their favourite “Composite Creatures” (Spoiler: it was the armadillo).  Visitors enjoyed interacting with artefacts such as bamboo, shells, and natural fibres as well as some manmade carbon fibres and plies.  A timeline of composites through the ages introduced visitors to the many ways humans have been harnessing the power of composites since their inception to their multiple uses in society today.

People in a marquee tent

The “NextCOMP Crusher” was in constant use, with visitors all vying to create the strongest composite they could make from a jelly beam and using just two strands of pasta for reinforcement.  Once constructed, attendees of all ages tested their jelly/pasta composite by applying weights until failure.  This year’s Festival of Nature saw the record broken, with a massive 1kg being achieved!

Supported by our fantastic University of Bristol Public Engagement colleagues, it was a brilliant opportunity to meet and converse with curious and engaged local people.

People looking at a display in a marquee tent

NextCOMP’s Prof Richard Trask said “What an amazing positive outreach event to engage with all ages. The Festival of Nature brings wonderful conversations around the benefits of fibre reinforced composites for society now and what we need to do for a more sustainable future. Who can resist the composite crusher – a simple test, and yet both the ‘established’ and ‘budding’ engineers and scientists are all vying to do the impossible… create a structural composite from jelly and spaghetti! Cracking fun.”

Team members involved were: Cameron Woodgate, Lucas Lu, Joe Rifai, Bohao Zhang, Ian Lee, Laura Pickard, Aree Tongloet, Xun Wu, Jo Gildersleve, Ian Hamerton and Richard Trask.

NextCOMP is an EPSRC funded Programme Grant UKRI EPSRC EP/T011653/1 and for more details of the Programme and the other activities the team get involved in see the NextCOMP website

NextCOMP team photos

CDT Outreach Day 2023

The ACCIS/CoSEM CDT hosted a STEM Outreach Day for a group of 50 Sixth-Form pupils from Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School on Thursday, 18th May. Led entirely by the current CDT students, there were four activities that ran throughout the day in rotation. To start the day, there was an introduction to the University and Composite Engineering given from Professor Ian Hamerton in the Small Lecture Theatre. This was then followed by a mini-lecture presented by CDT18 student, Rafael Heeb, on an Introduction to Aeronautics. Then, CDT20 student, Meiran Abdo shared about his current research project in recycling wind blade waste material.

Two people working on an experiment

The group then went down to the General Engineering Lab for a variety of hands-on and engaging activities. One activity, created by Dr. Ben Woods, was the creation of an aeroplane wing. This required students in small groups to make important decisions to craft a wing that took into consideration aerodynamics and the lift/drag ratio.

The ‘winning’ designs were celebrated after each wing was tested for performance. The pupils also utilised the NextCOMP Crushers, generously supported by the NextCOMP team. Using jelly and dried pasta, the pupils were tasked with creating a sample that could withstand the most weight. Pupils using equipment in a labThe pupils also used the pillar drills and laser cutter to create keychains that they could take home with them. Each pupil was also given the opportunity to spend time on the flight simulator, which was widely praised by the pupils.

As it was a beautiful day outside, the pupils enjoyed lunch at Royal Fort Gardens, before continuing the rotations in the Lab. It was a great day, with unanimously positive feedback from pupils and staff on the overall satisfaction of the day and the engagement of the CDT students.

Pupils being shown how to do an experiment in a lab

Additional gratitude for the support to help run this day from Willow Gibson, Jo Gildersleve, Sophie Spence, Josh Hoole, Active Outreach, and the CDT Directors and Staff.

Composites Manufacturing Simulation Takes A Leap Forward

A speaker presenting at the conference

To mark the closure of the EPSRC funded SIMPROCS Platform grant at the Bristol Composites Institute, a dissemination event was held at the NCC on 20 April.

This was well attended by over 50 delegates who came to hear about the state-of-the-art composites manufacturing simulations that had been developed throughout the project.‌

People watching a presentation



‌A series of talks highlighted successful outcomes, such as over 20 published papers, international collaborations, new software developed and industrial deployment of new process modelling tools.
The event ended with a networking lunch and a display of posters about the research.

Professor Stephen Hallett presenting at the Simprocs event

Prof. Stephen Hallett, the grant’s principal investigator, said “I am very proud of what we have achieved in this programme. It has‌ been a game changer in our ability to simulate composites manufacturing processes. The world‌-‌class team‌ of researchers have been amazing to work with and have delivered fantastic new capability.”

A powerpoint slide from one of the presentations being shown on a screen


The slides from the day’s talks can be downloaded at the following links:

Introduction, grant overview, major successes – Stephen Hallett

Pre-preg and AFP process modelling – Jonathan Belnoue

Process Modelling of Textile Composites – Adam Thompson

Industrial use case – from CAD to defect free part – Yi Wang

Early stage new technology – Machine Learning – Anatoly Koptelov

And the posters can be downloaded here:

SIMPROCS – posters



Unique Modelling Capability for Composite Manufacturing

The National Composite Centre (NCC) held an event focused on ‘Demystifying Digital Engineering’ on 23 March. This was an opportunity for guests to view and interact with a range of digital technology and skills demonstrators that accelerate engineering transformation, identifying efficiencies in product, process and technology development. This will inspire the next generation of engineers to engage with tools developed in the DETI (Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation) R&D initiative.

The Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) demonstrated a simulation tool that provides uniquely fast, and accurate simulations for the manufacturing of composite components. The automated simulation tools developed are available for industry use from BCI and the NCC, which results in significant cost savings per part by reducing the need for physical trials, which could in turn eliminate one or more design cycles. The University of Bristol also contributed to DETI with 5G work on Enabling Quantum-secure 5G enabled Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) for manufacturing, through the Smart Internet Lab, and the challenge of Enabling the Digital Thread in small engineering projects in work between CFMS and the University’s Engineering Systems and Design Institute.

People looking at the BCI stand at the event  People sat watching a presentation in a conference room

BCI Doctoral Research Symposium 2023

On 4 April 2023 the Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) welcomed over 100 delegates from academia and industry to the Bill Brown Design Suite, Queen’s Building, for its annual Doctoral Research Symposium.

Attendees of BCI Symposium listening to a presentation

Doctoral students from the BCI, including 38 students from the EPSRC CDT in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing (CoSEM CDT), showcased their innovative composites research through an impressive display of posters and presentations. 

Delegates were treated to a rapid-fire journey through the cutting-edge of composites research, with 25 presentations on topics spanning all three themes of the institute. Slides can be found on the Symposium webpage; recordings will be added to the BCI YouTube Channel 

Posters from the day were collated into an electronic Poster Booklet.

Attendee stood next to their poster board

Congratulations to all the winners of the poster competition:

  • Delegate vote: Charles de Kergariou. (Runners up: Stefania Akromah and Tom Brereton) 
  • Student vote: Stefania Akromah. (Runners up: Charlie Brewster and Charles De Kergariou) 


Documenting the morning’s events was local artist, Helen Frost. Her Graphic visualisation of the Symposium gives a flavour of what it was like to be there on the day.  

An artist drawing illustrations across a large canvas

Following the Symposium, students attended an industry-led discussion panel, comprising experts from Airbus UpNext, GKN Aerospace, Leonardo Helicopters, Sigmatex UK and Vertical Aerospace. Student Nuhaadh Mahid remarked that this “provided the rare opportunity to clarify industry-related questions about their current projects and reasoning behind various design choices.” 


To cap off the day staff and students gathered in the Wills Memorial Building for the Symposium dinner to mark the culmination of another year of hard work.

BCI Co-Director, Prof. Ole Thomsen, said: “The display of high-quality research of our BCI doctoral students was truly impressive. This was duly noted and recognised by the external attendees including project partners. It was indeed a good day for BCI!” 

Attendee stood next to their poster board

Two attendees looking at poster board